The Drawing Room – Flemings Mayfair Hotel Review
7-12 Half Moon St Mayfair London, W1J 7BH
Tel: 020 7499 0000
The Drawing Room Afternoon Tea: £34.50pp*
Spontaneity is a good thing. Flying by the seat of your pants. Winging it. Embracing the unexpected. Take today for example. There I was walking along Piccadilly, desperate to spend money on books but trying to keep to a self-imposed budget in order to buy food, water, socks etc. Simultaneously pleased and disappointed at how boringly well-behaved I was being I determined to treat myself to soup and ham and cheese croissants from a well-known coffee outlet whose name rhythms with Caffe Zero. Being told that my soupy substance of choice was off the menu during the summer months (hot food very much a seasonal thing, apparently. Clearly I never got the alert that microwaves were being decommissioned till January) I walked despondently towards nothing, kicking my heels with a empty stomach and no destination in mind. That was until I happened upon Flemings of Mayfair. I don’t know what encouraged me to venture inside. My initial plan was to snuggle in their lounge area, make one pot of tea last three hours and use their Wi-Fi to stream my latest terrible movie of choice (I am one of the 9 people who can now claim to have sat through Movie 43 from beginning to end, heaven help me). But as with most of my ideas I was quickly swept off course into a new and extremely delicious direction.
The Drawing Room is richly appointed with colonial scenes decorating the walls (tying in with the hotel’s partnership with The East India Company), Assouline books lining the shelves (I’ll bet dollars to donuts that no one as ever opened a single one of them) and plush turquoise sofas beckoning weary customers to collapse into their velvety embrace. I had the lounge all to myself for the first half an hour, only to be disturbed by two men talking incessantly about money and stocks and how much they enjoyed Jordon Belfort’s self-help book on how to pee other people’s money down the toilet as though moral torpor was something to aspire to. They were quickly followed by two American women who ordered the afternoon tea and spent most of it bemoaning the inclusion of bacon in one of the finger sandwiches. I was tempted to suggest a trade between my egg mayonnaise and their BLT but that might have lead to a conversation; not an activity I encourage when food is keeping my mouth busy.
Because I am winging it/flying by the seat of my pants/living it large etc. pesky matters such as reserving a table in advance has fallen by the wayside. Thankfully this was not an issue and I was still able to make dietary changes to my order to ensure that the dreaded egg option was no more. The sandwich collection consists of chicken with mango dressing, sun-dried tomato and mozzarella, bacon with lettuce and tomato and salmon and cream cheese. Each flavour was exceptional and left me feeling pleasantly full, all washed down with two pots of tea brewed to perfection prior to serving. The first was a caffeine-free Nile Chamomile infusion the colour of sunshine, whilst my second pot came at the recommendation of the hostess, a warm and charming lady whose name now sadly escapes me (apologies for my forgetfulness. For the purposes of informality I will refer to you as Gertrude. Unless your name really was Gertrude. In that case, kudos to me for remembering the little people). She arrived at my table brandishing a mahogany tea caddy the size of a briefcase, happily inviting me to admire and sniff the various loose leaf options available in each lined compartment. I was only too happy to oblige. Afternoon tea is all about luxury and spectacle, so to have a host of exotic tastes and aromas presented for my delectation was a real treat. So caught up was I in Gertie’s obvious enthusiasm for the Lis-Han Oolong tea that to choose anything else would have seemed like a personal insult. She is clearly a woman of good taste, so much so that I would recommend that she stop allowing idiots like me to shorten her made-up name to Gertie because it isn’t a name that does her (or anyone) any justice. The blend is a nutty, smoky infusion with woody undertones that complements the scones perfectly. Two pots of tea are included in the price and allows you to sample different blends that you might otherwise miss if you are like me and tend to stick to green tea because someone once told you it cleared your skin, flushed out your toxins and made you age backwards like Benjamin Button.
Two warm, perfectly sized scones are served with Chantilly cream and super sweet strawberry jam. They are lovely and the quality of the ingredients is exceptionally high, but when afternoon tea is taken with regularity there comes a point when scones start to feel like the intermission period before the all important second half. Another drawback is that scones, to a greater or lesser extent, all tend to look the same, so from a photographic standpoint the only indication that these scones are different from the others I have eaten is that the pattern of the crockery is different. I may solve this lack of diversity in future posts by drawing tiny penises onto currants whenever I am served a fruit scone, asking fans to count how many they can find in a genital-themed version of Where’s Wally? Where’s Willy, I think I’ll call it. All answers to be submitted by carrier pigeon for the chance to win a pirated copy of ‘Blame it on the Bellboy’ on Betamax.
Getting back to the matter at hand (‘thank God for that!’ I hear you cry, ‘you don’t get this kind of nonsense on Bake Off, soggy bottoms aside.’) it is time to focus on the true reason that this tea is so special. Yes, the savories are great and the scones are all that a good scone should be, but they are left in the shade by the intriguing collection of desserts and petit fours that take pride of place on this impressive stand. They are a winning mix of modern art and Victorian sitting room. I find myself in a state of wonderment trying to capture their beauty and craftsmanship from different angles, hoping against hope that the ingenuity of their design will be matched by the taste.
Firstly there is a chocolate and passion fruit slice, a light, flavourful dessert with a zingy ganache topping. This is followed by a fluffy pavlova filled with raspberry and rose coulis, so delicate that it fell apart between my fingers when I tried to pick it up. Then comes the rhubarb and ginger compote – just the right side of tart – complete with a creamy custard foam. The Thai basil and lime macaroon was, from my perspective, a adventurous combination of flavours that won me over and left me wanting more. This view however was not shared by one of the American women at the table opposite. She tasted her own macaroon, made the face of a bulldog chewing an entire nest of wasps, swore under her breath and promptly spat the masticated macaroon into a napkin with as much grace as was possible given the sacrilege she was committing. I watched this scene of culinary carnage whilst nibbling on a elderflower and marmalade cone, essentially a fun-sized Cornetto balanced inside a miniature teacup. I might be illegally streaming cinematic stink bombs and wearing the kind of outfit you’d throw on when putting out the bins on collection day, but at least I wasn’t gobbing into a tissue and declaring that the hotel could shove its 12.5% surcharge where the roses don’t grow. By comparison I was Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Kate Middleton all rolled into one. That’s got to be worth thirty-odd quid of anyone’s money.
Savory selection: 4.5/5
Dessert selection: 5/5
Verdict: Elegant, unique and imaginative. 5/5 teacups
*Prices correct as of 24.08.19
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